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Greater access to legal aid for injury victims



People who have experienced injury, personal harm, or miscarriages of justice are to benefit from changes to legal aid means testing that will come into effect this year.

In the UK, compensation payments currently made through the miscarriage of justice compensation scheme are automatically means-tested as part of the legal aid process. This can result in victims delaying applications for compensation while they pursue justice through the courts.

Now, certain compensation payments will no longer make people ineligible for legal aid support and access to justice.

Means Test Review measures are being brought forward and will be introduced this year, which extend to victims paid compensation for personal harm or damage or given financial support, for example. These changes will also help victims of domestic abuse during costly and distressing legal proceedings.

Under the plans, any victim who has been forced to leave their home temporarily for their own safety will have the first £100,000 of the equity in their house disregarded from the means assessment.

Backdated welfare benefits and child maintenance payments will also be subject to a disregard, meaning more vulnerable victims will qualify for legal aid.

Under the first phase of the Means Test Review, the government implemented the new non-means-tested areas of legal aid in August and September 2023. However, while detailed work has been undertaken to deliver further reforms, the timeline for implementation will take longer than initially envisaged due to wider competing priorities. The new schemes are now not expected to be fully operational until 2026.

The miscarriage of justice compensation scheme is designed to help individuals restart and rebuild their lives. It is just one route in which an individual can receive compensation for a wrongful conviction, with other options including suing public bodies.

In order to be eligible for a payment under the scheme individuals must:

  • Apply within two years of being pardoned or having their conviction reversed as a result of a newly discovered fact.
  • Have had their conviction reversed on the basis of a new fact which demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt they did not commit the offense.
  • Not be responsible for the non-disclosure of the new fact

More information about the reforms can be found here: Legal Aid Means Test Review – GOV.UK.